Nancy Reinheimer Kaufman started her private practice in a rented office equipped with little more than an answering machine. Now, 22 years later, she attends to the speech, language and behavioral needs of hundreds of children through an 11,000-square-foot clinic staffed by 40 professionals.
As the founder of the Kaufman Children's Center in West Bloomfield, Mich., Kaufman is the visionary behind innovative treatments that help children become effective vocal communicators. She is known worldwide for her expertise in the area of childhood apraxia, with families from around the world seeking out her center and staff.
Despite her success, Kaufman never forgets her beginnings – starting with the undergraduate degree she received from Michigan State University.
"I certainly feel that MSU prepared me to succeed," Kaufman said. "MSU also made me love being a student. Even now, I love being a 'student' when I go to conferences and listen to other professionals."
Growing up in the Detroit area, Kaufman originally came to MSU to study music therapy. She switched her major after a horrific bout with tonsillitis and an ensuing tonsillectomy postponed her private voice lessons and audition to the music program.
"I had some time to reflect and realized I didn't necessarily want music to become my life's work," she said. "But I knew, too, that I had a good ear. So I decided to find a related field."
Kaufman committed herself to the study of audiology and speech sciences and earned her bachelor's from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences in 1978. She received her master's degree from Wayne State University and worked in a hospital for 13 years. Branching out on her own, she established her practice and developed the Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol (K-SLP) – a unique method for treating children who struggle to speak as well as children with autism spectrum disorders.
"This has been one of the most fulfilling occupations I could imagine," Kaufman said. "My advice to anyone considering this career is to just do it. I can say that I look forward to going to work everyday."
Kaufman recently was awarded 2015 Community Excellence Business Person of the Year from the West Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce. She also is the recipient of the 2010 Outstanding Alumni Award from MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences and the 2011 Michigan Speech-Language-Hearing Association's Distinguished Service Award. She serves on the professional advisory board of the Childhood Apraxia of Speech Association of North America and is on the board of visitors of Wayne State University's Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute for Child and Family Development.